Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Connections - True Gifts

Every once in awhile a story washes up and deposits itself at my feet – a gift
So do I leave it or do I pick it up and write about it
       Is this insensitive?             Can I do it justice?
        I tried leaving it...yet it kept beckoning me back
                 So I picked it up and wrote
                    A true story

I well remember the empty look in her eyes as she was led into the dance studio. 

Her name was Marilyn; she had just tragically lost her teenage daughter, Shonna, to a genetic heart disease that no one had known about.  
Both Marilyn and her daughter, Shonna were dance students of mine.   
 A good friend suggested dance would still be good for her ....I didn’t question any of it.....when she walked through the door, the “Mom’s Group”.....a recreational dance group that fearlessly and successfully competed and entertained in adult dance competitions and recitals...embraced her.   Focus and energy were required and somehow despite Marilyn’s debilitating grief she managed much more than just putting one foot in front of the other that year....she danced...and well.  I admired her courage and ability.   Buoyed by the outrageous fun attitude and warm friendships in the class, Marilyn would continue dancing for several years, until she moved away.


Fast  forward 20 years; we are now in our 60’s. I have been retired well over 10 years; our paths had separated for a good number of years.....she moved to another country and then returned. 

I would move to another city and yet somehow – a few years back-we would meet on a path that I  walked daily...she happened to be visiting a sister who lived nearby and decided to go for a walk herself that day.  

Perhaps this was a precursor of how our lives would again intermittently connect even though we live in different cities.

After I retired the Mom’s class shrank and evolved; it went from dance, to scrapbooking, to card making and now it has become a book club. Marilyn and I are now members of the “Mom’s Book club.”  (I also “daring greatly” go twice a year to try my untalented hand at scrapbooking...Marilyn has become my teacher.)

Marilyn far left 

Both Marilyn and I are selective in our book readings; we avoid topics that remind us of past pain. 

It was Marilyn’s turn to choose a book; her choice was “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty.

(note; there are possible spoilers ahead)

A very captivating read; however; part of this book deals with a well written and believable account of the painful complex emotions and feelings of a mother whose teenage daughter was murdered.  The physical description of the teenage daughter is eerily similar to Shonna, Marilyn’s daughter.   The age at death for both girls is 17. 
I was a bit surprised by her selection given the content.  I actually thought Marilyn may start to read it and change her mind.
Now just to be clear, let me reiterate....Marilyn’s daughter was not murdered.  She died of a hereditary condition that caused heart failure.

As many of you know, I do not believe coincidences are accidents in life. 

I believe there is a ‘Force” or “Presence” that seems to work unconsciously within and about us and sometimes in spite of ourselves. I believe in co-incidents.

Before I continue on, I am going to diverge a bit and share a bit about Shonna.


Shonna was a quiet yet congenial girl who was very likable; she was well disciplined in her actions, well focused and certainly well mannered.......and yes as you can see she was a very nice looking girl.
Shonna was tall and lanky, she had slightly rounded shoulders that gave the appearance of smallness in her collarbone area.  She had long fingers, long narrow feet and flexible joints that made the controlled core strength needed in dance more of a challenge for her.

I feel like I am writing a dance exam report here but there is a reason for this attention to her physical appearance.  They are clues to her secret killer.

In the book, The Husband’s Secret, we are hooked very quickly and are compelled forward in the mystery so it was easy for us to gloss over the similarities of physical features between the murdered teenage girl in the book and Shonna.
Moving forward to our evening book club meeting at Marilyn’s home; that night we were all respectful and being sensitive as we knew this book would have been a bit difficult for Marilyn.
What I did not know was how difficult it was.
The subject of the murdered daughter and the destructive forces that reigned in the book’s characters were skirted till right at the end of the evening.

Marilyn stood up to speak.  She had a large envelope in her hand. 
She explained that due to the busyness of her schedule she had not had time to read the book until just a couple weeks before our meeting.  She shared when she started the book she became uncomfortable as soon as she started noticing similarities, but she was carried forward through the book by the suspense and her curiosity.  

At the end of the book the author has an epilogue; I did not read the epilogue with any great depth; in fact I skimmed over it mainly because it dealt with ‘what if they had known’ or “what if they had done”.....”the what if’s” annoyed me.  Marilyn was the opposite of me she continued reading the epilogue still enmeshed in the story, the reason being is because she had read inside the book cover that there was a gob-smacking twist in the epilogue.

For Marilyn there was a shocker. 

The murdered daughter had actually died of “Marfan Syndrome”. 

Shonna had died of Marfan Syndrome

Not only was there mention of Marfan Syndrome in the book, the book went on further to describe the symptoms, the physical appearance and the final aortic aneurysm that was the cause of death for both girls. 

Marilyn was dumbstruck.

She desperately wanted to talk to someone that night.  Given the late hour she had to absorb the shock and painfully process this alone through the night.  As shock turned to wonder at how this co-incident could have happened; Marilyn made a decision not to share with anyone but instead planned how exactly she was going to handle this turn of events. 

It was my turn to be taken aback.

Momentary thoughts like what? Unbelievable!  I did not know the name of the condition that killed Shonna.  

What are the chances Marilyn would unwittingly chose this very book?

Marilyn said “I don’t believe in this sort of thing but this really made me wonder”.  

Now I ask you the reader how many books have you read and have you ever come across Marfan Syndrome in any of them?

Given I am aware there are no coincidences and I enjoy writing of these co-incidents; still the strength of this incident delivered an impact and I came away thinking I had just experienced the most profound book club meeting thus far. 

It was a strong reminder for me that indeed a “Life Force” is at play creating these connections -  smile... this assurance is truly a gift for me.    


I am adding an Epilogue to this post. 

It seems appropriate.

 Marilyn gave her “epilogue” at the end of our book club meeting .  Like Marilyn I would like others to at least be aware of the signs of Marfan Syndrome.

We have seen children and people with the signs...we just do not know what we are looking at.  For sure I didn’t and tragically neither did Marilyn.

And like in the book....I am going to mention a “what if”.  What if someone had alerted Marilyn to the signs of Marfan Syndrome....then this true story may have ended differently.  Marilyn has taken the lemon of ‘what if” and decided to make a lemonade stand and at her stand she freely gives the lemon-aid of awareness that she so wishes had been given to her.  That way future similar stories may have better endings.

In Marilyn’s folder were brochures and bracelets for Marfan Syndrome. 

Marfan Syndrome is a disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. 

This disorder is treatable. 

In hindsight there were a couple of times in Shonna’s life where doctors had noted Shonna’s hands as interesting but sadly no directive or sharing of thoughts took place and remedying the more eminent malady at that time took precedence;  thus Shonna’s disorder remained undetected and ended her life far too soon.  

Easy signs to see

-          Long arms, legs and fingers

-          Tall and thin body type

-          Curved spine

-          Chest sinks in or sticks out

-          Flexible joints

-          Flat feet

-          Crowded teeth

-          Stretch marks on the skin that are not related to weight gain or loss

-          Severe eye disorders

-          ___________________________________________________________________________


Marilyn also gifted each of us with a black and gold fan that night........the fans were purchased for each book club member while Marilyn was on a European vacation. These were purchased before Marilyn read the book.  I noted the possible fusion of Marilyn and the fan...to Mar-fan...or even just the fan.  Perhaps I am reaching a bit for a connection...although I must admit it came to me as an insight...... I have placed it beside a doll Marilyn made me many years ago after I had become a widow.

.....the fan not only reminds me the value of turning the blackest times of our lives to gold but of the connectedness that brings situations, friends and experiences in and out of our lives to carry us forward – all gifts.

Thank you to Marilyn and Jim for giving permission to publish this post.  

For more information on Marfan Syndrome  go to www. marfan.org



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